How to Create a Partnership with Your Child’s Teacher

It’s that time of year. The signs are all over the stores and commercials on TV. New school supplies, shopping for clothes, finding just the right backpack …all point to school is about to begin. Some of you may be cheering for that first day and others are mourning the loss of free time, vacations, and a freer schedule. Either way you look at it, you can’t deny that school is about to start.

As I prepare for my nineteenth year of teaching, I always have mixed feelings about school starting. I mourn the loss of my free time from summer and the beginning of the hectic schedule that accompanies the school year, but I am also looking forward to meeting those new faces in my classroom and the excitement of fresh ideas and plans for this new school year.

Whether this school year is beginning in the same place as last year, or your child is going to a new school in the same town or a whole new city, there are things you can do to help them have a more successful school year. You are your child’s greatest advocate and no one knows your child like you do. Creating a partnership with your child’s teacher will, I promise, make for a more enjoyable and rewarding school year for all of you involved.

1. Fill the teacher in on the details.

Please don’t take this wrong way. Do not show up at open house or the first day of school planning on having a one-on-one conversation with your child’s teacher. It is a complete madhouse and the teacher is just trying to get students’ names memorized at this time and make them all feel welcome.  But ask the teacher a few days in or send a note and ask how you can set up a conversation. Maybe an email will work or possibly you need a face-to-face but if there is something going on in your child’s life that is extremely important, please let the teacher know as soon as possible. Maybe your spouse is deployed, or there is a divorce that recently happened, or a new sibling was born. All of these warrant a quick conversation with the teacher. Just a quick FYI works just as well, but let the teacher know. It makes a world of difference knowing these things are happening in our students’ lives and helps us understand their behavior so much better.

We have twenty or twenty-four or more new little or big people to get to know and that is just in the elementary school. Middle school and high school teachers have six or seven times that many kids to meet and become acquainted with.  I don’t know how many conversations I’ve had during parent-teacher conferences where I learned something and thought, “That explains so much!” We can’t read minds and it doesn’t usually work to have your child let us know (although the younger they are, the more they love to share!)

2. If you are upset about something, talk to the teacher first.

Being a parent myself, and also when dealing with kids, I usually take the 50 percent rule into consideration. About half of what I’m hearing is the truth. Not that I’m saying my kids, or my students are lying, but there is always another side of the story and I’m only hearing one perspective. If your child comes home with some outrageous stories, before flying off the handle and calling the school board, have a conversation with the teacher. I also recommend waiting a day if you are really upset. Dealing with such situation in an emotional state, usually don’t result in the greatest outcomes.

Once again, I’m not referring to any type of emergency situation, but please try to calmly talk to the teacher first. Also, taking your issues to social media is not going to create a positive relationship with your child’s teacher. I’m sure you wouldn’t like your child’s teacher spouting off about you or your child on the Internet, and teachers feel the same way. Have the conversation first.

 This leads to the next step if you’ve had the conversation and things still aren’t copacetic. Then take it to the next level and approach the principal but continue the conversation in that manner. It will make the situation that much easier for all involved.

3. If you’re still not happy, volunteer to help.

I know this isn’t always feasible. I can’t volunteer to help in my own kids’ classes either. I do know that if you’re not happy with the situation, sometimes spending the day or even an hour in your child’s classroom can make a world of difference. It might open your eyes to how or why certain things happen in your child’s classroom. It might help the teacher understand what your concerns are more specifically. It also gives you an opportunity to see the classroom from the teacher’s perspective. Almost all teachers go into this profession because they love kids and want them to succeed. They don’t choose this job because they get summers off and are done by 3. If you know a teacher, you know how false this actually is. Plus…it’s not like anyone goes into it for the pay! Haha.

4. Many of the things you’re frustrated with, the teachers are too.

They amount of complaints on social media that I read related to school have many similar themes. Too much testing, common core, losing extra classes like arts and music and more. Many teachers are equally frustrated with all of these things, but the one difference is that we don’t have a choice. Whether there is testing mandated by the state, or curriculum chosen by their school district, we are required to follow through with all of these obligations. Plus they regulate our entire class day. Teachers would love nothing more than having their day to just spend with the people they love the most, their students which are the reason they chose this occupation. We would love nothing more than not having to spend all the extra time to stay in compliance with all the required paperwork, or losing so many days to testing. Unfortunately, no one asked us. Or didn’t take the opinions of teachers into consideration when making these decisions.

5. Teachers are people too.

We are wives and husbands, moms and dads, sisters and brothers, friends and more. Many of us have kids of our own we’re also parenting when school is done. We have spouses waiting at home who listen to our daily concerns and the worries we have about failing our little people at school. We have parents we need to help take care of, or just spend time with. We deal with sick kids of our own, soccer schedules, and workouts we try to fit in.

And every minute your little person isn’t in our care, they are always in our thoughts. We’re trying to figure out another way to explain that foreign math concept that most of the class still isn’t getting. We’re racking our brains on how to help our struggling readers make that connection and keep up their confidence. We worry about some of our kiddos who may go home to problems many of us never have to deal with. We continually search for fun ways to teach these abstract ideas that are so difficult for our students to learn. Our work never totally leaves our minds.

So when your child’s teacher isn’t having the best day just remember we are human too. We make mistakes, have bad days and are sometimes crabby. Not that I’m making excuses, but sometimes a little compassion goes a very long way.

6. Please don’t complain about those dreaded school supplies.

All the posts on social media are up about school supplies. I know the lists are sometimes longer than you find necessary. If you have questions, please ask the teacher. We do understand the cost however. We buy them for our children and many times, spend thousands of our own dollars each year to buy things for our students, which means for your child too. I teach in a public school, so the costs to parents are limited when compared to paying for childcare. I can promise you that teachers do not sit down and create these lists, trying to find the most ridiculous items we can think of. There are reasons behind these lists. They help your child learn better, in all our experiences with our students year after year. We don’t get all the shiny news crayons and glue sticks and then hoard them for ourselves. They go to our students and they never last all year. We really appreciate the help with providing these things for your child in order to make their learning experience more rewarding.

If you support your child’s education and their teachers, the more fulfilling the whole experience will be for your child. Take concerns directly to the teacher first and try to keep things positive in front of your child. The vast majority wants your child to learn and be happy as much as you do. Make that partnership from the beginning and things will be smoother the whole school year.